The Building Blocks of Brand Loyalty
BY JASON J. NICHOLS, OD, MPH, PHD, FAAO
Consolidation in the industry has created a competitive marketplace. Marketing firms assist eyecare companies as they try to convert ambivalent practitioners into loyal prescribers, although some businesses market directly to patients (or “consumers” in their worlds). When talking to other practitioners, I find more often than not that they often develop a loyalty to a specific contact lens and/or care solution manufacturer. I can’t count how many times I have heard a practitioner say, “I only fit lenses from company XYZ.”
I often follow such observations with a question as to why they are brand loyal, and I get a variety of different responses. I can generally group them into a few different categories, although overall brand loyalty is most likely ultimately determined by the cumulative effect of a number of factors. One of the more common responses that I hear from practitioners relates to the sales representative from their preferred company. Specifically, attentive sales reps who consistently deliver a high level of service to a practitioner or practice really seem to stand out in relation to practitioner loyalty. Another frequent response that I hear relates to the pricing and/or distribution stream of a company’s product(s), which may even extend into issues concerning reimbursements and coverage of insurance plans for specific products.
Unfortunately, product efficacy or safety, while sometimes acknowledged, doesn’t get mentioned as often as I would have hoped. Perhaps all of the products that we use are safe and efficacious, and some might argue that it is difficult to differentiate brand loyalty based on these considerations. However, based on my clinical experience, I believe modern technology effectively differentiates the products we use in practice. Hopefully we’ll be able to continue the discussion while optimizing the care of patients by utilizing the best product for their specific needs.